Nick Hedderick loves baseball in general and the Pirates in particular, and his favorite player is Andrew McCutchen. On July 12, the 13-year-old from Erie, PA, was treated to a special day at PNC Park, courtesy of the Pirates and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Hedderick, who has been diagnosed with a neuroendocrine tumor and is undergoing treatment at a local hospital, served as the Pirates' honorary bat boy that day. But that doesn't begin to describe how cool the experience was.
When he arrived at the ballpark that afternoon, he was surprised to see that McCutchen was the person waiting to greet him in the lobby. The All-Star centerfielder escorted the star-struck youngster to the Pirates' clubhouse and showed him around. Not only that, Hedderick was set up with his own locker that contained a uniform jersey with his name on the back and pair of personalized Nike "Cutch" shoes, among other items.
He spent quality time with the Pirates' players and coaches both in the clubhouse and out on the field during batting practice. Plus prior to the 7:05 p.m. contest against the New York Mets, Hedderick accompanied Manager Clint Hurdle to home plate to exchange line-up cards with visiting skipper Terry Collins and converse with the umpires.
Following the pre-game festivities, Hedderick and his parents got to enjoy Pittsburgh's 3-2 victory over the Mets from a luxury suite, thanks to Levy Restaurants, which also provided delicious treats such as M&Ms, potato chips, chicken, hot dogs and soft pretzels. And incidentally, Hedderick's new friend -- McCutchen -- scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning that night.
His unforgettable trip to PNC Park also included a visit to the broadcast booth, where he got to talk to the Pirates' announcers and see them in action.
"We got this list from Nick that was kind of a pie-in-the-sky list," said Leigh Ann Lubarsky, Manager of Program Services for Make-A-Wish in Pittsburgh. "He wanted to meet Cutch, he wanted to be in the locker room, he wanted to see what the bat boy does, and he wanted to be on the field with the managers and umpires and hear what they talk about before the game. We had kind of set the expectation with him that we weren't sure what we could do, but then we turned the list over to the Pirates and they came back with done, done, done, and done.
"The wish experience went so far beyond what Nick had ever thought it was going to be. He was a little overwhelmed initially. He was shocked that it was really coming true. Everything that he wished for and spoke about was there in reality.
"We are so grateful for the relationship we have with the Pirates. They are terrific each and every time we approach them with a wish opportunity. They really go above and beyond and roll out the red carpet for our kids. We're so appreciative of their constant support."